Archives for category: Graduation rates

The “Regents Exams” in New York State were once a mark of accomplishment for students who chose to take them. They were considered rigorous and prestigious. But sometime in the 1990s, State Commissioner Richard Mills decided that all students should pass the Regents to get a high school diploma. The standards had to be lowered, so that there was not massive failure. Passing the Regents was no longer a badge of high accomplishment.

Now the Regents are debating whether to keep, change, or dump the high school exit exams. Research shows that high school exit exams lead to decreased graduation rates and dropouts. Not surprisingly.

The Albany Times-Union reported:

ALBANY – Members of the Board of Regents debated the value of the Regents exams Monday as part of an overall planned examination of the state testing system and graduation requirements that had been delayed due to the pandemic.

“Maybe the Regents exams are not the be-all and end-all,” said Regent Roger Tilles during a meeting that also included a presentation about how students graduate high school in other states and countries. “We have kids that can’t pass a Regents exam but pass all their courses. Should they be denied a future because they can’t pass a Regents test in one area?”

But the rigorous exams get students prepared for the future, argued Regent Catherine Collins.

“I hope the state does not get rid of the Regents,” she said. “I was fortunate enough to have the Regents science diploma, which gave me the foundation to go into health care.”

The discussion comes after graduation rates increased during two years without Regents exams, due to the pandemic. For now, the Regents are back, but a Blue Ribbon Commission is expected to weigh in on new high school diploma requirements next year. The commission was announced in 2019, but the pandemic led to a slowdown and the commission wasn’t named until last year.

The state Education Department said in an email to the Times Union later Monday afternoon that “the Board was not debating whether to eliminate Regents exams. Rather, they were discussing a 166-page report that has been in the making for three years and heard a presentation based on (the) report’s literature review, policy scan and stakeholder feedback….”

In 2019, Education Commissioner Betty Rosa made it clear that she did not think the Regents exams are “working” for every student, and questioned whether the tests improved college readiness, among other factors. She has pressed for alternative paths to a high school diploma, including career and technical programs.

At Monday’s meeting, she urged the Regents to have an open mind.

“We really have to take into account not what worked for us, but what will work down the road,” she said. “At the end of the day, our job is to keep in mind what our students need for the future.”

Chancellor of the Board Lester Young, Jr. was adamant that the board make no decision right now.

Jennifer Hawes Berry of the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, wrote this account of a Charleston high school struggling to improve and raise its graduation rate, even as its enrollment dwindles in the era of school choice. The main effect of school choice seems to be the damage inflicted on the local public high school. The original story was published in 2015 and updated in 2020.

She writes:

Once a powerhouse Class AAAA school, North Charleston High can barely field sports teams anymore. Half of its classrooms sit empty. Saddled with a reputation for fights, drugs, gangs and students who can’t learn, middle-class families no longer give it a chance.

This is the unintended consequence of school choice.

Two-thirds of students in its attendance zone now flee to myriad magnets, charters and other school choices that beckon the brightest and most motivated from schools like this one.

But not all can leave, not those without cars or parents able to navigate their complex options. Concentrated poverty is left behind. So is a persistent “At Risk” rating from the state

Berry writes about the senior prom. Before “choice” drained the school of students, the prom drew 250 graduates. Now only about 60 attend.

She writes:

Fresh from jail, the 17-year-old has been at North Charleston High for six days. Principal Robert Grimm fought enrolling the teen given he came with an armed robbery conviction.

A district official said: You have to.

So, the new kid walked into the glass front doors and down the cinder block hallways, bringing with him only a handful of credits and a rap sheet.

Six days later, as students surge into the hallways during a morning class change, he starts shouting and bumping into another boy on the third floor.

Assistant Principal Vanessa Denney responds to the call for help. An ebony-haired Jersey girl, this is her first year at the school. She rushes toward the teens, fueled by an instinct to protect.

But the new kid crosses an invisible and clearly understood line.

With both hands, he shoves her down onto the floor hard enough to leave bruises. Denney doesn’t top 5 feet in stilettos. He outweighs her by 50 pounds.

Other students hurry over to help. Rodrik Rodriguez, the school’s burly North Charleston police officer, barrels in. He orders the student to calm down.

The 17-year-old doesn’t calm down. Rodriguez arrests him.

Then the teen crosses another clear line: He threatens to come back and shoot the officer, Rodriguez writes in a police report. “Watch what happens when I get back. I’m going to straight drop you, brah.”

New charges accompany the teen’s return to jail: threatening the life of a public official and second-degree assault and battery. He faces prison time, if convicted, and expulsion.

So the 17-year-old who Grimm didn’t want to enroll, who arrived with few credits and stayed six days, may wind up counting as a non-graduate on North Charleston High’s critical graduation rate.

The numbers game

It’s Wednesday morning, when several North Charleston High staffers will gather around an oval conference table next to Grimm’s office to tackle an onerous task: scouring the list of students who will count as dropouts because they have vanished from these hallways.

Every name is critical.

When a graduating class has fewer than 100 students, each one is crucial to that all-important number on the state report card: THE GRADUATION RATE.

With the seniors set to cross the stage in a month, time is running out to find students who last enrolled here but might be going to school elsewhere — or who could be persuaded to come back and finish high school.

Denney sits in her office poring over a roster of students counted as enrolled at the school. An educator turned detective, she must track down those whose names show up on the list but whose bodies aren’t warming a classroom seat.

If she can prove the teens are enrolled somewhere else, North Charleston High can scratch them from its rolls — and boost its graduation rate. If not, they count.

Report in hand, Denney heads downstairs to a conference room beside Grimm’s office, joining Data Clerk Kathleen Luciano.

Grimm huffs in, radiating ire.

A parent scheduled to meet with him didn’t show up. For the seventh time. And he’s just learned that two new students have appeared on the school’s non-graduate list. Both enrolled here as freshmen, then never stepped foot on campus.

Because North Charleston High has become so small — school choice drained 700 students from its halls this year alone — every student who shows up on that roster but doesn’t graduate in four years drags the school’s graduation rate down more than 1 percent.

Now he fears they’ll look like two more dropouts on the school’s graduation rate this year.

Grimm grabs his cell phone, dials the school district offices and makes his case.

“But she never stepped foot on this campus!” he insists.

As of today, the school has 84 students who should be seniors and graduate this year.

Of those, 58 likely will cross the stage in a month. Another 12 are self-contained special education students who are unable to pursue traditional diplomas. Yet they will count as non-graduates on North Charleston High’s state report card because rules about treatment of children with disabilities require all students be calculated alike.

But it means that this school, which has the highest percentage of special education students of all high schools in Charleston County, can achieve at most a 77 percent graduation rate, still below the district’s goal, even if every other student here graduates in four years.

The state likely will give it closer to 66 percent.

That’s because, as of this meeting, 14 students who should be crossing the stage are God knows where instead.

Denney recently found one should-be senior on Facebook posting photos of herself partying at clubs, new baby at home. Another earned a GED — but will count as a non-graduate per state reporting rules. One is in a psychiatric hospital refusing to do school work.

Then there is the 17-year-old charged with assaulting Denney. Another new student just was arrested for two gun violations in his neighborhood. Both likely will be expelled. Both could spend time in prison.

A student peeks into the conference room door. He just arrived at school, an hour late because he relies on a CARTA bus. He just moved — again — this time to live with an older sister.

But at least he is here, heading to a classroom.

Gary Rubinstein has followed the progress of the much-lauded Success Academy charter chain, supposedly the most successful in the nation. He has noted that SA graduates only a small fraction of those it admits. He estimates that about 75% are gone before graduation.

Success Academy has argued that a 75% attrition rate isn’t so bad because it is about a 11% attrition per year, compounded, which, they say, is what happens in public schools too. But I don’t think this is a valid argument. Getting into Success Academy is supposed to be like winning the lottery. The attrition rate should be miniscule if Success Academy is as good as they claim. You don’t just give away a winning lottery ticket.

Ann P. Cronin is a former Connecticut Distinguished English Teacher of the Year, a school district administrator, and creator of award-winning programs for the teaching of English in middle schools and high schools. At her blog, she asks about Miguel Cardona’s vision for the future.

She writes:

When I ask Connecticut teachers about Miguel Cardona, those who know him or have worked with him say that he is really nice guy who knows what the challenges in our classrooms are, knows how to help teachers to improve their teaching, and respects public schools. All good.

The majority of Connecticut teachers who don’t know him personally say that he has been largely quiet as Commissioner and are critical that he seems more interested in keeping schools open than in caring about public health, including the welfare of teachers, students and students’ families during the pandemic. 

But what is his vision for teaching and learning that he will bring to the U.S. Department of Education? When appointed Commissioner of Education in Connecticut 19 months ago, he stated that his goals would be to:

  1. Make a positive impact on graduation rates.
  2. Close the achievement gap.
  3. Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.

It is reasonable to assume that the goals he had for Connecticut 19 months ago will be goals that he will now bring to the country. Those goals, however, are “old hat” and don’t have a record of being successfully accomplished.

The goals themselves are worthy ones, but they need a new interpretation which would give rise to a dramatically new vision and radical new actions. The questions are: What would that new vision and new actions look like? And is Dr. Cardona open to that vision and those actions?

Cronin points out that it easy to “raise the graduation rate,” as many districts now do, by offering “credit retrieval” or “credit recovery” courses, a quick computer course that involves minimal learning but provides credits. The goal ought to be, she says, not raising the graduation rate but something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

Charter schools have mastered the trick of raising graduation rates by pushing out students who are unlikely to graduate on time.

She asks for something more: a genuine vision that involves improving the quality of education, not improving the data.

How refreshing!

Gary Rubinstein writes here about podcasts in which Chris Stewart of Education Post interviews Robert Pondiscio and Eva Moskowitz.

Gary has made a practice of scrutinizing the data that is available from the Success Academy charter chain, noting the high attrition rate from those who enter in the early grades to those who remain to graduate high school. There is attrition even in the final year of high school, which is somewhat surprising. Perhaps even more surprising is the imbalance among the graduates based on gender: there are far more females than males. What happened to the boys?

Gary Rubinstein is the Myth-Buster of the Resistance. He has achieved this eminent position because of his intolerance for hype, propaganda, and lies.

In this post, he bust the myth that low-income charter school graduates have a dramatically higher college graduation rate than low-income public school graduates.

In fact, he shows, charter school graduates have the same college graduation rate as their mothers!

Education Reform propaganda at The74 would try to make you believe that while low income students generally graduate from college at a rate of about 9%, charter school graduates complete college at a rate of 3 to 5 times that.

The main flaw in any comparison between the college graduation rates of charter school graduates to low-income students, in general, is that the charter school students do not represent a random sampling of the general population of low-income students.

In The Alumni, Richard Whitmire says that charter schools that have 5 times the expected college completion rate are ones that only counted their students who persisted until 12th grade in their charter schools.  Since for some charter schools, this only represents about 25% of the students who started in that charter school, this even more of a biased sample.  But, Whitmire explains, the one network that has the most valid way of doing a fair comparison is the famed KIPP network.  Since KIPP counts, in their data, any students who enrolled in KIPP, even if they left soon after starting.  And he says that KIPP students, including ones who didn’t persist at KIPP, graduate college 3 times the expected rate.

Reform supporting billionaire John Arnold commissioned Mathematica, a data analysis company, to study the college enrollment and college persistence of KIPP students.  Instead of comparing KIPP students to the general population, they compared KIPP students to students who had applied to the KIPP lottery but did not get into KIPP through the lottery.  This is a much more valid way of measuring the impact of KIPP.  The big takeaway, as I wrote about in my previous post, was that students who applied to KIPP, whether or not they got into KIPP, had a college persistence rate of about 3 times the general low-income population and that students who applied but didn’t get into KIPP had about the same college persistence as students who applied and did get into KIPP.  So students to apply to the KIPP lottery are the ones who, on average, were much more likely to persist in college — something that Whitmire never mentions in The Alumni.

But this Mathematica report includes some other relevant data that I didn’t pick up on when I wrote the last post.  Fortunately there was a discussion among some readers who commented on the last post which pointed this out.

In 2018 the National Center For Education Statistics published a report called ‘First-Generation Students College Access, Persistence, and Postbachelor’s Outcomes.’  In it they say that about 70% of students who have a parent who completed college also complete college compared to about 35% of students who do not have a parent who completed college.  This confirms what most people would expect for so many reasons and this is why we celebrate when students are the first in their family to graduate college.  It means that the descendants of those students will also be more likely to go to college…

At this point, Gary displays a graph from the Mathematica study.

Notice that last line.  It says that of the students entering the lottery about 27% of them had mothers who finished college.  This makes the fact that about 30% of the students in the study (which includes students who got into KIPP and also students who did not get into KIPP) have persisted in college through four semesters even less surprising.


Gary Rubinstein has a deep aversion to hypocrisy, hypes, and propaganda.

He read a widely publicized report saying “research shows” that graduates of KIPP have higher college completion rates than their peers.

But then he discovered that the research shows no significant difference between KIPP students and their peers in college completion rates. 

His post debunks Richard Whitmire’s erroneous claim that KIPP students finish college at a rate three to five times greater than students who went to public schools. It is also a valuable lesson in reading and interpreting research findings or claims that “research shows.”

He begins:

The way reformers misuse data follows a very simple and predictable plan:  First they get some skewed data, then pick a ‘researcher’ to interpret the skewed data.  The ‘researcher’ then writes a report which gets touted in The74, EduPost, and eventually even makes it into more mainstream publications like USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.  Since the report is filled with nonsense and half-truths, within a few weeks the truth comes out and the report is discredited, but not before the damage was done and the spin has made it into folklore.  When this happens, the reformers will then ‘move the goalposts’ and get some more skewed data and start the process over again.

An example of this is the July 2017 report by Richard Whitmire called ‘The Alumni‘.  Whitmire has written books about both KIPP and about Michelle Rhee so I think you get the idea of what his point of view is.  In this poorly researched project he concludes that “Data Show Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average“.

This was probably the easiest report I ever debunked.  The biggest flaw was that for most of the charter schools, they were only counting the percent of graduating seniors who persisted in college and then comparing that percent to the overall percent of all low-income students — an apples to oranges comparison.  Whitmire acknowledges this in another post about the methodology in which he says that only KIPP counts students who leave the school before they graduate and that their numbers are much lower, but still at 38% which is at least triple the expected graduation rate for low income students.

A second flaw, and this one is very difficult to compensate for, is that charter school students are not a random sampling of all students since many families choose no to apply to them.  So you get a biased sampling even if you do count all the students who get into the charter school and not just the ones who make it to graduate from the charter school.  And even though I and others have discredited his report, it is something that still gets quoted in the main stream media.

Just recently, however, I learned of a report generated by Mathematica and funded by the John Arnold Foundation.  I think that Mathematica is a very reputable company and even though reformers often hire them to produce reports, sometimes those reports reach conclusions that reformers were not expecting.

In this case, the report called “Long-Term Impacts of KIPP Middle Schools on College Enrollment and Early College Persistence” , reached a result that completely contradicts Whitmire’s claim that “Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average”.

Read on to see just how overblown is the KIPP myth about the college success of their students

Here’s the relevant summary of what they found:

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Why do the Disrupters continue to insist that charter schools will “save poor kids from failing schools,” when the evidence continues to accumulate that this is simply not true.

According to the latest state data for Indiana, the graduation rate is about 87%, with variations among different groups of students.

For charter schools, the graduation rate is 40%. 

Indiana’s high school graduation rate dipped slightly in 2019, with the rate of students needing waivers from the state to earn a diploma, noticeably higher than previous years. 

The state graduation rate has hovered around 87 percent since 2016, but a higher rate of students needed a waiver to get a diploma in 2019 – students get one if they don’t pass their final state exams..

Schools graduated black, English Language Learner (ELL) and special education students at the lowest rates among student groups, at 78, 77 and 71 percent, respectively.

State data also shows non-public and traditional public school graduation rates landed at or above 90 percent for all students. Meanwhile, charter schools graduated students at a rate of 40.2 percent. 

This is an astonishing graduation rate gap between public schools and charter schools.

Who will save poor kids from failing charter schools?


The parents of a student in New Orleans were dismayed when they realized that their daughter would graduate from high school even though she could neither count nor read. She was surely entitled under federal law to extra help but she never got it. Now she is a statistic: a graduate. A victory for the all-charter system that failed her.

Dennis Lewis remembers the moment clearly. It was the beginning of the school year, and he was trying to convince his wife that their 18-year-old wasn’t getting the services she needed from her public high school in New Orleans. 

He pulled out a handful of coins from his pocket, and asked his daughter how much money he was holding. 

“Sure enough, she couldn’t count it,” he recalled.


The look on his wife’s face — who would die from an aneurysm just three days later — was devastating.

Denesha Gray had just started the 12th grade. A few months later, still unable to perform basic addition, she beamed as she walked across the stage and received her diploma from McDonogh 35 Senior High School.

Gray, who struggles with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder, had been allowed to progress to this point despite several red flags. She couldn’t count money, and she read only as well as a second grader. The system also failed to provide her with the type of tailored education program that her diagnoses mandated until the very end of her high school career.

Gray’s story recalls a sad episode that was once held up as Exhibit A in the failure of New Orleans’ public schools — the story of Bridget Green, who, despite being her school’s valedictorian in 2003, could not pass the state’s graduate exit exam of basic skills.

But Gray graduated in 2018, after being educated almost exclusively in a school system that was held up after Hurricane Katrina as a laboratory for education reform.

Louisiana teacher and activist Lee Barrios posted this online comment in response to the article:

Just a sampling of not only how disastrous education reform has been for our public schools in general, but of the damage that continues to be done to the SPED children through pure neglect and, unfortunately, purposeful denial of every child’s right to a public education that meets their needs!  

Although this story thoroughly covers WHAT happened, as good journalistic reporting should, the public must now ask and demand the answer to WHY it is happening.  

Many of us (properly trained and experienced education experts) have been monitoring the progression of the educational experiment dubbed “reform.”  Our  children have been used as the guinea pigs for the experiment. There is no doubt as to WHY the experiment failed.  

As is true of all failed experiments, the hypothesis was flawed (an understatement).  It’s like an experiment based on the idea that if supplementing a cow’s feed with apple cider vinegar will result in increased milk production (true) that adding vinegar when watering our flowering plants will increase bloom. An adept scientist will know or learn enough about the components of the experiment FIRST to tell him from the start that the hypothesis is incorrect – worse than incorrect – it will kill the plant.  

Those who devised the various hypotheses of the educational experiment called reform include Presidents on down through the past few U.S. Secretaries of Education (Duncan, King, DeVos) to our State Superintendent John White.  And finally, placed in many of our classrooms are unqualified instructors (like Teach for America recruits) who are NOT qualified, properly trained or experienced educators.  It’s a fact.  Add to that lack of expertise along with the power and money of the backers of these experiments like  Bill Gates, the Waltons, and Jeb Bush bent on pushing their false theories.  Then quickly followed a long list of investors, politicians and charlatans and you have what we see today – our children, our public schools and our teachers “dying” – and many of us would say death by design. 

Many educators (and now parents) locally, nationally and even internationally have sounded the death knell for years. Our protests were particularly loud after Hurricane Katrina when the orchestrated takeover of New Orleans schools took place.

The volume increased in 2010 with the Race to the Top scheme pushed by Bobby Jindal.  We have been flailing our hands treading water ever since as John White was appointed State Superintendent via a waiver of qualifications by a corrupt or at least blind majority of BESE members whose campaigns were funded by millionaires and billionaires who succeeded in fooling the voting public that Might is Right!  

The single most important weapon used to facilitate the destruction of our public school system has been the use of our HIGH STAKES standardized test.  Imagine that.  One single test that combined with the disastrous Common Core Standards to which the test is aligned and the bogus unresearched  and unproven curriculum (that which is being taught in the classroom) has captured total control over our local school districts.  

And to make sure that the use of these three components of the experiment produce the desired results (privatization through school failure) an invalid accountability system was devised that has fooled the public into “believing” the results of John White’s manipulated and complicated formula of School Performance Scores. 

ALL FACTS folks.  We have the evidence. We have the proof which many of us allege to be fraud, malfeasance, and coercion.  But no one with the authority to conduct a full investigation has listened or taken action.  NO ONE!  It has been like standing at the bottom of the mountain warning that an avalanche is imminent but nobody in the restaurants and expensive homes below want to believe that the status quo is about to be disastrously broken!  Questioning if it could be possible that their lives are in danger of being changed forever.  

It too bad that the greatest victims have been our innocent children.  Let’s Stop!  This experiment is a failure!  

Lee P. Barrios, M.Ed., NBCT

Candidate – BESE District 1
La. Board of Elementary & Secondary Education






The Connecticut State Board of Education hired a new state commissioner who pledged to raise the graduation rate, close the achievement gap, and “Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.”

What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what every new commissioner promises? Has any new commissioner in any state achieved those goals?

Ann Cronin, veteran educator, explains why these are tired cliiches and what a visionary approach would look like. 

First, would be to change the term “graduation rate”  to something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

“Credit retrieval” is a common practice in public schools with low graduation rates. “Credit retrieval” allows students to make use of often dubious computer programs that, in no way, equal courses in academic subjects, yet  the students get credit for the academic courses. In doing so, students increase the graduation rate for their schools but do not have adequate learning experiences.

Charter schools have another way to increase their graduation rates. They “counsel out” students who are likely to not graduate before they get to be seniors which leaves only a pre-selected group as seniors and, unsurprisingly, they all graduate. And lo and behold, the charter school has a high graduation rate. For example, one year at Achievement First’s Amistad Academy in New Haven, 25 students out of 25 in the senior class graduated, but 64 students had been in that class as ninth graders.

A visionary way to increase the number of students who receive a high school education is to not count the number of students who receive high school diplomas but rather count how many of the students who begin a school as ninth graders complete the coursework necessary for graduation. For example, some innovative public high schools hold Saturday classes with actual teachers instead of plugging kids into commuter programs. The applause should be given to high schools who deliver a quality education to all the students who begin their high school education in the school not to the schools who either give credits without the academic content and skills or who dismiss those who won’t make for a good statistic.

Read her essay to see her critique of “closing the achievement gap,” which is impossible when the gap is based on standardized test scores which are designed to have a gap.